Supervisors seek to maximize trust fund grant
“Desirable housing is just unavailable,” Adam Plagge, executive director of Fairfield Economic Development Association told Jefferson County Supervisors Monday.
Plagge presented a housing-needs assessment showing fewer housing options for Fairfield residents than nearby towns, adding that 50 percent of residents earn less than Fairfield’s median household income of $43,919.
Plagge said this makes it hard for some residents to make much-needed home repairs.
“It’s a difficult choice people are faced with, whether to feed their families or make repairs to their homes,” he said, echoing a comment Supervisor Becky Schmitz made last week.
Plagge said the lack of affordable quality housing and the need for newer homes at starter home prices are also roadblocks new talent face when moving into the area.
“Forty to 60 percent of people who come here to work live elsewhere,” he said. “New residents find it difficult to find a home.”
FEDA’s finding may have been the catalyst, swaying Monday’s vote in favor of additional funding from AHEAD’s Regional Housing Trust Fund; a decision Supervisor Dick Reed tabled last week pending further review.
Reed said he was in favor of leveraging the funds, however, he wanted to know where Jefferson County’s part of the $38,000 match would come from.
“Didn’t want to raise property taxes,” Reed said. “I wanted to make sure we have a place to get the money from.”
It was decided that a $6,600 contribution would come from the general fund, garnering $28,000 in trust fund dollars, earmarked specifically for Jefferson County to continue its general relief and housing stock improvement efforts.
“We do have a real need for quality homes in Fairfield and for existing homes to be maintained,” Reed said. “I think our tax base drives people into other communities.”
In other news, County Engineer Scott Cline said the contractor in charge of repairs on 185th Street is ready to resume work.
Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said he was under the impression that the project would be completed prior to the start of school.
However, Cline said the contractor is still in compliance — as he has not broken any contractor laws — though work may not be finished prior to September.
After the Aug. 18 tour of the county, supervisors identified Juniper Avenue as a problem due to its extensive structural damage.
“It needs to be done and done now,” Dimmit said. “It’s not safe.”
Reed also expressed concerns as to how soon roadwork would begin.
“The reason I’m pushing on it is because Brookville took two years and a lot of talk; same as Juniper,” Reed said.
Reed and Dimmitt agreed that other roads were still in need of repairs.
“Butternut and Brookville still don’t have consistent roads,” Reed said.
Cline said certain areas of Juniper would be “scarified” or broken up and removed for replacement; potholes would be filled and the street dust proofed.
On the mental health front, Schmitz said the Mental Health Coalition’s meeting on Friday was devoted to informing the community about the various mental health services available to them.
“There’s been a lot of effort to bring up the awareness of services,” Schmitz said.
The coalition discussed Tenco’s new crisis stabilization home, the Iowa Department of Human Service’s new Integrated Health Home initiative and Optimae LifeServices involvement with initial mental health screenings.
“Two people were prevented from going into the hospital,” Schmitz said. “Due to better mental health assessments provided by Optimae.”
However, Schmitz said suicide rates are higher than normal.
A suicide prevention meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Fairfield Public Library.
Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy proclaimed the week of Sept. 8-14 as Suicide Prevention Week.